A Middletown man has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of animal cruelty for setting a cat on fire in the summer of 2017.
Kevin L. Sullivan, 33, entered the plea to the fifth-degree felony Tuesday in Butler County Common Pleas Court more than a year after the incident outside a Howard Avenue residence.
Sullivan was scheduled to appear in Judge Charles Pater’s courtroom in May after posting a $50,000 bond, but he never showed.
Six months later police and prosecutors learned Sullivan was serving a jail sentence in Montgomery County for forgery.
Pater sentenced Sullivan to three-years probation for cruelty to companion animals. He faced up to 12 months behind bars.
Middletown police and a Butler County Deputy dog warden were dispatched Sept. 18, 2017 to Howard Avenue, where the fire department had put out the cat that was ablaze. A police officer shot the cat to put it out of its misery, according to a police report.
Samples taken from the cat and the blanket used to smother the fire indicated that lighter fluid was used, according to court records.
Police said Sullivan initially lied to them about his involvement, but an investigation by Middletown police and the dog warden’s office led back to him as a suspect.
Sullivan’s plea marks the third felony conviction in the county since animal cruelty laws changed in 2016.
The charge of cruelty to a companion animal had been a first-degree misdemeanor for years, with a maximum sentence of 180 days. Now it can be classified as a felony in certain cases — usually when there is a prior charge of abuse or extreme cruelty, according to Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser.
Last week, Andrew Chilton of Middletown was found guilty of felony animal cruelty for hanging and beating a kitten to death following a bench trial. He is being held in the Butler County Jail pending sentencing next month.
In November, Tina Jackson of Middletown pleaded guilty to three counts of felony animal cruelty after several dogs, one that was decapitated, were found dead in frigid conditions in the backyard of her home. She was sentenced to 60 days in the Butler County Jail.